Wednesday, July 15, 2015

these days i spend a lot of time driving on indiana avenue, in order to take a kid to a tennis camp, and then go out and pick him up when he's done. i start out on 23rd street, and the camp is on 112th, but i have to go out to 114th, turn right and go a mile or so, and then come back a couple of blocks. these days that's about the edge of town, though the city is growing way beyond 114th; there's a low field right there, and it seems like you have some countryside south of 114th there before you get to the walmart they're building. right when i turn there are wildflowers, bright yellow, that are growing taller even than my van, a large splay of them that i keep meaning to take a picture of. but the fact is, i'm turning right right there, and kind of have to pay attention to the road.

a friend pointed to an article which spoke about the old problem of the quakers: their refusal to fight wars leaves them (us) taking advantage of freedoms won at the barrel of the gun - freedoms we ourselves refused to contribute to getting. yes, this is an old philosophical problem, and it is slightly more current in my mind these days, since we have two quaker bumper stickers on the van (WAR is not the answer, and, Quakers: religious witnesses for peace since 1660). Occasionally trucks cut me off close, or i hear them speeding up to get beyond me, and imagine these as slightly hostile, impatient actions. in fact i think texas is more of a barrel-of-your-gun kind of place than your average place, and people are quick to point out that by and large everything good has come by shooting and killing for it, or at least that's what they believe. Signs and stickers saying "Come and take it" are common: I take these to mean, I dare you, bring me your guns, you don't like my good life, I'll fight for it and we'll see. It's like the revolution, in which texas became its own country, was just yesterday, when in fact it was what, 1864? might as well have been yesterday. it's not far beneath the surface.

i was surprised when, by and large, the reaction to the sandy hook massacre was to make it possible to arm the kindergarten teachers. i wasn't eager to have loaded guns in my kids' kindergarten, but it pointed out to me a huge cultural difference - to some people, the gun is always under the pillow, that's the way life is, that's what you want if you want to be free.

it brings up some interesting questions. first - is it possible to gain freedoms entirely through non-violent action? one could mention eastern european countries, like georgia and belarus, though i don't know really if they got their freedoms that way, or if you could call what they have freedom. we have what we call freedom; we got it, presumably, in 1776, and have defended it in subsequent wars, though i'm not sure if what we are doing today in iraq, or what happened earlier in, say, vietnam, could rightly be called "defending our freedom." it might better be called "killing in the name of helping people who we believe will be helping this country toward more freedom." but i'm not even sure we could say that accurately.

almost nobody disputes the war against ISIS. the kind of brutality, violence, and pure evil is unmatched in modern times. they cut off people's heads and take slaves from people they consider to be "infidels," which could be almost anyone, and the rest of us in the west dither around and try to decide whether to make our boys die, or use our drones, or train people or what. the steadily increasing unpopularity of war has made it so it's difficult to just send the boys in and run the place over. we quakers would by and large say, do what you're going to do, but don't go about killing people as it doesn't work and it's immoral. does that mean this brutality would just go unchecked under a quaker government? well, yes, it has happened in the past, as it did in quaker pennsylvania of colonial times, or when a war passed through a quaker village. the fact is, if the command is not to kill, or rather, one knows that the only way to break a vicious cycle is to not be vicious, then there's only one way to proceed in the big picture: don't kill. the quaker way is to just consider the morality of the action itself and not be coerced into doing something immoral just by basically the way someone else is doing things. i'm not sure the quaker way goes over so well in these parts.

a lot of texans have become convinced that they're in a kind of alamo world by themselves: the rest of the world, with the possible exception of their confederate brethren, have succumbed to a wild, lawless kind of anything-goes, take-what-you-can-get anarchy, where the people who work are the losers, and everyone else is essentially a taker. thus, 'come-and-take-it' signs and bumper stickers are almost a last stand of brazen defiance; the place is overwhelmingly anti-obama, but also pro-gun, pro-war, pro-self-defense. they don't go for this quaker kind of idealism, like you can just be good and hope everyone else can be good around you. they won't. texans are quick to fight that way.

the sun is bright; the days are very hot. the soil is worthless, though these wildflowers are doing well with all the rain we've gotten. police are all over the roads, presumably pulling over people who are doing 55 in a 40, and letting go those who are at about 43 in a 40. a lot of people just fly by me period, whether they are aware of the over-patrolling of indiana avenue or not, who knows? let's just say that as long as there's money to be had, they're out there getting it, chasing down the business, going to the next spot. i myself am determined to follow the law, stop at the lights before they are absolutely red. don't give them any excuse to hate me, more than they've already got. and anyway, war is not the answer. if they cut me off, i'll just keep on driving down indiana. i'm not into that kind of middle-finger escalation that too often gets people killed.


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